HHS to launch new mandatory bundled payment models: 4 things to know

HHS canceled and scaled back major mandatory bundled payment models in 2017 under the leadership of then-Secretary Tom Price, MD. On Nov. 8, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the agency is reversing course and plans to roll out mandatory bundled payment demonstrations.

Here are four things to know:

1. HHS is re-examining the role of bundled payments in the industry's transition to value-based care, Mr. Azar said in a speech at the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative Conference on Nov. 8.    

2. In his speech, Mr. Azar discussed some of the current voluntary models, including Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced. However, he said mandatory models are coming.

"Real experimentation with episodic bundles requires a willingness to try mandatory models," he said. "We know they are the most effective way to know whether these bundles can successfully save money and improve quality."

3. In 2017, HHS canceled mandatory bundled payment initiatives, including those on cardiac care, before they launched. Mr. Azar said the agency is re-examining the models that were rolled back and is exploring new models.

"We intend to revisit some of the episodic cardiac models that we pulled back, and are actively exploring new and improved episode-based models in other areas, including radiation oncology," Mr. Azar said.

4. In a prepared statement issued after Mr. Azar's speech, American Society for Radiation Oncology CEO Laura Thevenot said the group is pleased that an alternative payment model for radiation oncology is in the works, but the organization is concerned about the model being mandatory from the start.

"While ASTRO is enthusiastic about the prospects for a RO-APM, we have concerns about the possibility of launching a model that requires mandatory participation from all radiation oncology practices at the outset," she said. "ASTRO recognizes that mandatory and voluntary models can take many different forms, and we look forward to working with Secretary Azar and CMMI to determine the best approach for the field of radiation oncology."

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